Sunday, July 12, 2009
Sartre & Nagarjuna
Today I'll start a new text drawing. I'm pretty excited about this one, and can't wait to get started. I don't have a title yet, but the concept is as follows:
I've been reading Sartre (right) (see previous posting) and am way interested in his description of emptiness. The existentialists were so close to Buddhism that they probably brushed elbows with a few Buddhas in the Void. (An aside: Some Buddhists are in fact atheists. I'm not sure how that works). So anyway, these two isms, existentialism and Buddhism, are like the proverbial two ends of the elephant, and I'll leave it to you to decide which end is which. So I'm re-reading Nausea, this time with a mission, and I'm fascinated with the parallels. Roquentin, the protagonist, describes the horror of waking up to his own existence:
"My thought is me: that's why I can't stop. I exist because I think...and I can't stop myself from thinking. At this very moment - it's frightful - if I exist, it is because I am horrified at existing. I am the one who pulls myself from the nothingness to which I aspire: the hatred, the disgust of existing, there are as many ways to make myself exist, to thrust myself into existence."
Sartre described an emptiness that was infinitely repulsive, without the possibility of intervention or escape. No hope, no exit. So I want to use this text to create another text on emptiness; one which describes the same Void, but offers a dollop of hope.
Enter Nagarjuna (above, with snakes). Next to the Buddha, he's easily the most influential Buddhist philosopher, and the dude who set the stage for such Buddhist masterpieces as the Prajnaparamita Sutras. You might say that he's the Godfather of Emptiness. Very little is known of this guy, except that he lived around 150-250 CE and he was a brilliant philosopher. From what I can gather, Nagarjuna was to early-millennium Buddhism what Martin Luther was to mid-millennium Catholicism. He literally wrote the book on emptiness. Actually, many books, but the one which is making me salivate (and other things) is Sunyatasaptati, Seventy Verses on Sunyata (Emptiness). Nagarjuna was waaay before his time. He was probably an existentialist, and it's rumored that he wore a black beret and smoked Galois.
So I'll be cutting the text from Nausea to transcribe the Sunyatasaptati. There are 10,551 CNS (characters no spaces), so I figure I'll finish it by September if all goes well. And since my massive fan base will be jonesing to hear of my progress, I'll be sure to send you regular updates from the trenches.
There you have it. Have a nice existence.